Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Distance Education: Article Databases

Moffett Library Resources and Services for Distance Education Students

How to Find Databases

To find a good database for your research topic:

  1. General article databases are a good place to start since they contain resources from a variety of disciplines. Simply choose one of those databases and type in your keywords to begin to find articles. An example of a general database is Academic Search Complete
  2. Browse for databases by subject by selecting the academic department that your class is in from the "Databases by Subject" box. Once you’ve chosen a subject, start your search by using one of the recommended databases that are listed.
  3. If you want to find resources in specific formats such as: news articles, encyclopedias, images and more, select "Reference Databases". If you want to find government documents, statistics, maps, images and more, select "Government".
  4. "A-Z Databases" lists all of the databases if you already know the name of the database you’d like to use.

Though some databases may look similar, they all contain many different types of materials. Here is some information about the different types of databases the library currently has access to.

  • Primary Source Databases - Included are indexes to primary documents (e.g. Humanities Full Text (H.W. Wilson)), databases or collections of documents (e.g. Heritage Quest Online), lists of archival collections or libraries (e.g. JSTOR Open Community Collections). Also included are the websites for archival collections, museums or libraries if those websites provide access to actual content (e.g. Library of Congress Digital Collections). If the resource listed provides access to the actual document (rather than just a reference to a document), it will be designated as "Full text" or there will be a further designation under Images (still), Moving Images and/or Sound/Audio.

  • Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers - Included here are atlases, collections of maps, aerial photos and other cartographic resources (e.g. Texas Digital Sanborn Maps). They may be thematic or subject oriented (e.g. oil reserves worldwide) or political (e.g. borders, cities, etc). Also included are gazetteers (defined as geographic dictionaries) and other resources that provide geographic information (e.g. CIA World Factbook).

  • Biographical Sources - Included are databases that provide biographical information about people; the resources may provide full text articles or citations to print or microform sources (e.g. Bibliography of Native North Americans (BNNA)) that may or may not be in the MSU library collection. Providing biographical information must be the primary intent of the resources listed in this category.

  • Book and Film Reviews - Included are databases and resources that provide full text articles or citations to print or microform sources (e.g. Book Review Digest Plus (H.W. Wilson), Academic Search Complete) that may or may not be in the MSU library collection. Sources that are not primarily focused on providing reviews may also be included. Certain single titles which include book reviews such as the New York Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, because they are very much "reference-like," are included here.

  • Book and Text Collections (electronic) - Included here are collections of books (e-books) or texts including fiction, essays, poems, drama. No individual titles or collections by individual authors unless they are "significant" (e.g. The Bible, Shakespeare, etc.). Also included here are eBooks that are part of a subject collection (e.g. ProQuest Science and Technology Ebook Subscription). In all cases these resources must be full-text searchable.

  • Dictionaries, Thesauri and Quotations - Included are general and subject-specific dictionaries and a select number of English/foreign language bilingual dictionaries, thesauri, dictionaries of quotations and acronym lists. Not included here are Internet-based translations services, however, there are a limited number of selected web portals of dictionary sites.

  • Directories - Included are listings of contact information for organizations, companies, educational institutions and careers, and publishers (e.g. MSU Texas Directory). A web page or site listing other web sites is not a directory. It must provide contact information, phone numbers, addresses, (or email addresses) for the organization.

  • Dissertations and Theses - resources that list master’s theses. Some resources are geographically specific, specific to an institution (e.g. MSU Thesis Collection) or department or subject specific. Some databases include the full-text or information on how to acquire the actual dissertation. Most include an abstract. Providing references to dissertations and theses must be the primary intent of the resources listed in this category. Many article databases list references to dissertations but they will not be listed in this category.

  • Encyclopedias and Almanacs - subject or non-specific encyclopedias (e.g. Credo Reference). Almanacs are, by definition, general. Also included are collections of print equivalent reference sources.

  • Government Information - Federal/US - resources that provide access to information by and about the federal and/or US government (e.g. GPO Monthly Catalog). As a general rule, government agencies are not listed here unless the agency provides access to a significant number of documents (e.g. Supreme Court in Nexis Uni). Most resources that are listed as a Government Information source will be cross-listed with other resource types such as Statistical and Numeric Data, Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers, etc.

  • Government Information - Foreign/International
    Included are resources that provide access to government information by and about individual foreign countries (e.g., the global community collectively (e.g., EIU Country Reports), and international bodies (e.g. AccessUN). 
    As a general rule, government agencies are not listed here unless the agency provides access to a significant number of documents. Most resources that are listed as a Government Information source will be cross-listed with other resource types such as Statistical and Numeric Data, Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers, etc.

  • Handbooks and Manuals - Included are tools designed to help practitioners in a specific field of study (e.g. Handbook of Texas). Handbooks and manuals provide ready reference to information in a standardized format, like chemical properties of organic compounds, etc (e.g. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition). One important difference between this type and encyclopedias is the domain knowledge required in order to use this information.
  • Images (still) - Included are image databases which provide access to works of art, cultural artifacts, design collections, advertising, manuscripts and photographs (e.g. Ad Age).
  • Laws and Regulations - listings or full text of laws, ordinances, regulations, rulings by regulatory agencies, and decision by appellate courts (e.g. Federal Register Online). Also included are collection of indexes are resources that cover law journals and law reviews. These indexes can be used to trace the historical development of laws and regulations. Also included are resources that index case law and judicial opinions (e.g. Nexis Uni).
  • Library Catalogs and Publication Lists - there are two general types of bibliographic tools: 1) library catalogs (e.g. WorldCat) which can be used to look up holdings of selected libraries and, 2) publishing lists or purchasing tools (e.g. Choice Reviews Online) which can be used to identify published materials such as books, journals, films, musical scores, etc.
  • Market Research and Industry Analysis - provide market research reports, company analyses, industry research, economic reports, forecasts, and financial reports on various industries (e.g. Business Source Complete and Ad Age).
  • Film and Video Databases - provide access to streaming movies (e.g. Kanopy and Swank).
  • Sound/Audio - sound and audio databases provide access to songs, historical broadcasts, and more (e.g. Naxos Music Library and Library of Congress: National Jukebox).
  • Statistics and Numeric Data - Included are resources that provide tables of numeric data, demographic information, statistics (e.g. Bureau of Justice Statistics), public opinion polls and box office figures.


Credit: University of California's Berkeley Library (

Article Types

Research articles (or empirical articles) are detailed studies reporting original research and are classified as primary literature. They may include a hypothesis, background study, methods, results, interpretation of findings, and a discussion of possible implications. An empirical article reports on the results of one or more studies or experiments, written by the person(s) who conducted the research. Look in the title or abstract for words like study, research, measure, subjects, data, effects, survey, or statistical  which might indicate empirical research. The authors will have collected data to answer a research question. The data can be collected in a variety of ways such as interviews, surveys, questionnaires, observations, and various other quantitative and qualitative research methods.         

Quantitative Research:

This involves the use of numerical calculations or summarizes, describes and explores relationships among traits; it relies on control of variables, statistics, measurement, and experiments. It usually involves collecting and converting data into numerical form so that statistical calculations can be made and conclusions drawn. 

Qualitative Research:

This emphasizes conducting studies in natural settings using mostly verbal descriptions and results in stories and case studies rather than statistical reports. It is about recording, analyzing and attempting to uncover the deeper meaning and significance of human behavior and experience.

Mixed Methods:

This employs both quantitative and qualitative designs. Researchers use any of the methods, techniques and procedures typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research.

Analytical articles analyze, examine and interpret such things as an event, an idea, or a work of art. An analytical article is a type of article which separates out facts so the reader can understand them more easily, and discusses what these facts mean. It usually reaches a conclusion based on the discussion of the facts, and tries to persuade the reader to agree with that conclusion.

Critical Review:

This is a formal academic or professional review. It discusses the contents, implications, and quality of an academic or professional text: a nonfiction book, essay, or article.

Book Review:

This provides insight and opinion on recently published scholarly books. Though book reviews are often written by experts, these articles are not considered scholarly and should not be used for your research papers.


This specific type of review article is a mathematical synthesis of the results of two or more primary studies that addressed the same hypothesis in the same way. 


This contains or refers to a set of abstract principles related to a specific field of knowledge; characteristically it does not contain original empirical research or present experimental data, although it is scholarly.

Informational articles give an overview of existing literature in a field, often identifying specific problems or issues and analyzing information from available published work on the topic with a balanced perspective.  They summarize the findings of others studies or experiments and attempt to identify trends or draw broader conclusions.  Scholarly in nature but not a primary source or research article, however its references to other articles will include primary sources or research articles. The writing style used in these works is informative; the authors avoid use of the first person, and emphasize facts.

Literature Review:

This summarizes and analyzes published work on a topic in order to:

  • evaluate the state of research on the topic.
  • provide an overview of previous research on a topic that critically evaluates, classifies, and compares what has already been published on a particular topic.
  • suggest future research and/or gaps in knowledge.
  • synthesize and place into context original research and scholarly literature relevant to the topic

Clinical Case Study:

This presents the details of actual patient cases from medical or clinical practice. The cases presented are usually those that contribute significantly to the existing knowledge on the field. The study is expected to discuss the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease.  These are considered as primary literature.   
Technical Reports:

These are generated by government agencies or large companies as a summary of scientific work.  The reports they produce are not often peer reviewed, but can be an important part of the scientific literature.  Reports from agencies like the World Health Organization or the USGS can provide vital information to scientists.  These reports can be found in scholarly databases and on the web, and are classified by some folks as Gray Literature.

Reporting articles discuss current or recent news of either general interest or of a specific topic. They can contain photographs, accounts, statistics, graphs, recollections, interviews, etc. The writer can also give key facts and information following answers to general questions like who, what, when, where, and how.

News Items (Current Events):
News Items may cite sources, though more often do not. Articles may be written by a member of the editorial staff, a scholar or a free-lance writer. The language of these publications is geared to any educated audience. There is no specialty assumed, only interest and a certain level of intelligence. They are generally published by commercial enterprises or individuals, although some emanate from specific professional organizations. The main purpose of periodicals in this category is to provide information, in a general manner, to a broad audience of concerned citizens.

Professional journals may contain a News section with brief reports on brand-new research in the field; these are quick summaries or announcements of the research studies, and not full research articles presenting the research findings. The related research article may, in fact, not yet be published. 

Sensational Articles:

This comes in a variety of styles (For example: Kardashian sisters have ALIEN babies), but often use a newspaper format. Their language is elementary and occasionally inflammatory. They assume certain gullibility in their audience.  The main purpose of sensational magazines seems to be to arouse curiosity and to cater to popular superstitions. They often do so with flashy headlines designed to astonish.

What is a viewpoint?

These are articles written from a personal point of view that mainly reflects the author's opinion about an important or timely subject. These articles may include evidence or analysis, but not to the extent of a research or analytical article.

Professional Communications, Letters, Announcements:

This is short descriptions of important latest study or research findings which are usually considered urgent for immediate publication. Scholarly journals will publish some types of articles that are not peer reviewed or based on research.  Examples of these would be important breakthroughs regarding cures or treatments for previously incurable conditions, or cure for a particular outbreak of disease, like for example swine flu.  Remember that not every article in peer reviewed journals is a peer-reviewed research article. These letters are not to be confused with letters to the editor.

Opinion or Commentary:

Opinions and Commentary articles present the author’s viewpoint on the interpretation, analysis, or methods used in a particular study. It allows the author to comment on the strength and weakness of a theory or hypothesis.

Opinion articles are usually based on constructive criticism and should be backed by evidence.

Commentaries are short articles that draw attention to or present a criticism of a previously published article, book, or report, explaining why it interested the author and how it might be useful for readers.

What is a scholarly journal and how is it different from a magazine or newspaper?

All three are called periodicals because they are published at periodic intervals throughout the year.

Articles in popular magazines like Vogue or Sports Illustrated contain information written for the general public. These sources may be appropriate to use in an academic paper, depending on the topic and focus. Magazines can be useful for introductory reading about the topic or for collecting fast facts.

Newspapers provide a journalistic perspective on a specific time and place, including local and regional news. Reliable news stories are based on eye witness' perceptions of what happened.

Academic journal articles are often longer than popular magazine articles. They may or may not be peer-reviewed before publication. Journals with fully documented references are more scholarly than those that don't include a bibliography or list of references.

Peer-Reviewed/Refereed Journals:
Articles published in refereed journals are controlled by an editorial board following a formal process of peer review by experts in the subject area covered. The information therefore has a high level of quality, credibility, and reliability.

Trade Periodicals:
Trade publications specialize in news and information for professionals in a certain occupation. They are a credible source if written by experts with knowledge of the subject area.

Accessing e-Resources from off Campus

Most databases, eBooks, and eJournals are licensed for use by students, faculty, and staff of Midwestern State University. To access them, you will have to login through the MSU Texas Portal. 

Journals at Moffett Library